Judith Butler: A truly amazing story teller

This is a guest post by CYH volunteer, Brianne Nettelfield.


Walking down Granville Street towards the Vogue theatre the first thing I noticed was a gigantic line curving around the block. “Surely”, I thought, “that’s not for Judith Butler…” It was. I guess that’s what happens when tickets to see one of the foremost feminist academics are free. My second surprise of the evening was running into a friend who I studied Cultural Studies with at UBC in Kelowna, who aptly informed me that a few of our old professors were in attendance. I was waiting for another old friend who had agreed to come with me and I did not expect to bump into a few new people I’d met being in Vancouver. This all made me realize how grateful I am to be placed in revolving and evolving communities that seek out the wisdom and truth spoken by a woman like Judith Butler.

Having read, researched, and subsequently quoted many a Butler essay in my university days, I really had no idea what to expect from her during a speaking engagement. Now, I can safely say, beyond being an intellectual powerhouse, Butler is a truly amazing story teller.

Butler’s lecture at the Vogue, brought to you by The Peter Wall Institute, was on bodies in the public sphere and was largely informed by the recent stream of demonstrations internationally, including the Occupy movement and the student movement in Montreal. If you are familiar with Butler’s essays then you know that her style is far from simplistic; however she was able to eloquently connect a multitude of complex and heavy ideas with a sense of intimacy that reaches far beyond the written word. She spoke often of unity, both the positive and negative aspects – there were many times when I could feel the group of people around me collectively embodying her words. She was powerful, we laughed, we sighed, and we even “Mmmmed”, like we were all sharing a piece of our favorite chocolate cake.

I could try to recall exactly what she said: some of her most evocative of lines, or research her background to give you a more full effect. But what struck me most about my experience hearing Judith Butler speak was her relationship with the audience and her ability to inspire a comforting hope despite her own (and audience) criticisms of ideas of occupation, unity, and the public sphere. At moments I had wanted to cry from hopelessness only to be relieved into empowerment by her next sentence.


Brianne is a volunteer facilitator with CYH’s Youth and Gender Media Project.  She holds a degree in Cultural Studies from UBC Okanagan, and is currently studying Film Arts at Langara as well as working at the BC Coalition of People with Disablities.



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